"The survey demonstrates the geographic illiteracy of the United States," said Robert Pastor, professor of International Relations at American University, in Washington, D.C. "The results are particularly appalling in light of September 11, which traumatized America and revealed that our destiny is connected to the rest of the world."
About 11 percent of young citizens of the U.S. couldn't even locate the U.S. on a map. The Pacific Ocean's location was a mystery to 29 percent; Japan, to 58 percent; France, to 65 percent; and the United Kingdom, to 69 percent.
One in ten can't find the US on a map? Oh, that's just spectacular. Almost one in three can't find the Pacific Ocean. How is this even possible? It takes up like a quarter of the entire planet or some such shit. Yet if you asked the typical American about Kim Kardashian -- the undeniably attractive yet equally undeniably vapid young woman who has managed to parlay getting peed on in a sex tape into fame and fortune -- they could tell you all about her business. Christ on a cracker, is it any wonder the rest of the world hates us?
Don't get me wrong, I'm not blaming the 9/11 attacks on Kim Kardashian (although there's a part of me that wishes I could -- I'm not gonna lie) but at some point we as Americans have to acknowledge our own shortcomings as well as those of our government. We've heard statistics like those previously mentioned; we've seen them among American beauty pageant contestants who blame the ills of the world on a lack of maps. And we respond with the occasional rueful headshake and What-can-you-do? shrug. We have devolved into a society that not only accepts ignorance but passively encourages it. (Sarah Palin, anyone? Because come on, no matter what your political ideology this is a woman who has built her political foundation on quips, winks, homespun folksiness, and general likability instead of her firm grasp of foreign and domestic policy.)
George W. Bush's response to the American people after 9/11 was that "Al Queda hates us because of our freedom." This, to me, ranks up at the top of the list of his ludicrous statements, and I will admit that in my estimation that is a very long list indeed. But I think it would have been much more accurate had Bush admitted that in the early 1990's the American government had encouraged the people of the Middle East to revolt and promised them our support. We told them we had their backs. They revolted, we helped them out for a little while, and then we bugged the fuck out of there leaving them holding the bag. People were subsequently raped, tortured and murdered, banished from their homeland, left to starve, and, in possession of precisely nothing, forced to try to make their way in the wilds of Afghanistan. America was all, "We got what we wanted, mostly, so thanks! Good luck to ya! Oh, and God Bless!"
Um, I don't think it was "freedom" that caused them to hate us, President W. There are many other nations who have similar freedoms that are not the targets of animosity. Belgium? Canada? Sweden? The Netherlands? Portugal? Switzerland? Brazil? All free nations, last I checked. Yet when he made that ridiculous proclamation an alarming percentage of Americans rallied around it, accepting it as truth because, after all, it was just those dirty backward Muslims, jealous of our televisions and air-conditioning and crazy voting ways, that felt compelled to pilot a jet into the side of a building on the other side of the world.
There are people who would love nothing more than to witness America's destruction. There were a few on 9/11 who managed to carry out a plan designed to do that very thing. I hope that as I write this those people are battling explosive diarrhea in the deepest pits of toilet-less hell along with the likes of Pol Pot, Idi Amin, and Hitler while waiting for their lapdances from some non-existent celestial virgins. I hope their time in eternity is filled with the misery and grief they wrought on so many others who were guilty of nothing but trying to live their lives the best they could. I hope there is nothing to eat in hell but head cheese and brussels sprouts.
I will not defend the indefensible. The actions of 9/11 were at the hand of a group of evil zealots with no regard for human life. Their hatred is unimaginable to me. But that hatred came from somewhere. Bin Laden and his ilk planted the seed, and those who perpetrated the attacks allowed it to grow. But there had to be soil for it to take root, and it is incredibly disheartening to me that -- while I am certain our government didn't knowingly cause these problems -- it contributed to them.
We must acknowledge that there is a world outside our country, a world that -- contrary to what the former President said -- doesn't give a shit about our nice cars, leather handbags, or some skank that gets pissed on on camera.
We have to wake up. We owe it to those who died ten years ago. They deserve better.